“Never Mind The Bullets: Brooklyn’s Unknown Rock-stars”
By Ky DiGregorio
It’s half past 7:00pm and Brooklyn glam punk band Love Bullet is lounging around my apartment following their mid-day show on Governors Island. We left the festival, Punk Island, at the same time, but somehow the band showed up at my place two hours after I did. Call it a testament to what Love Bullet is all about: winging it. At all costs.
“We’re not a punk band,” says the group’s lead guitarist, and the rest of the guys agree. “Cause we’re not all ‘politics this, politics that, fuck the world!’,” he explains.
Styles, lead singer of Love Bullet, chimes in next. “And we’re not a rock n’ roll band… We’d like to be, but that would mean having our shit together!”
I’d almost expect them to say “we don’t put labels on our music”, but that’s a little too 80’s new wave, and none of these guys have Duran Duran haircuts. No, Love Bullet is just infected with a highly contagious case of Ramones Syndrome – a lot of fist fighting, boredom, and glue sniffing to fuel their “no labels” policy.
It looks that way, at least.
Cigarettes hand-rolled from leftover bits of tobacco are burning and T. Rex’s Electric Warrior and is spinning on my record player. Love Bullet discusses their passion for Johnny Thunders and stories of passing out mid-show, including one where an unconscious band member acted as a living ornament during the set. The Heartbreaker’s classic punk record, L.A.M.F, will have been released thirty-four years ago this October, but spending time with the verbal hurricane that is Love Bullet, you’ll start to believe that you’ve just heard “Born To Lose” for the first time at Max’s Kansas City.
You can most closely compare the music of Love Bullet to classics like “Baby Talk” and “Trash”; think a bunch of guys that look like hybrids of Nikki Sudden, Axl Rose, Richard Hell, and local skate-park punks, jamming out rock n’ roll flavored punk tunes. The first time I saw the band play, in a small venue/bar on Rivington Street with the band’s biggest fan, rock n’ roll nightlife curator Kelle Calco, he described it as a “New York Dolls kind of thing”. And the best part is, it’s not far off.
The guys have only been all together in New York City for about four months since their move from Denver (the members of Love Bullet have been everywhere from Mexico to Vermont, Hawaii, and New Jersey), and have already made an in for themselves in New York nightlife, including playing the Hudson Hotel’s celebrated rock ‘n roll party, Ladyland.
Sure, they have all the glam punk band clichés (wild drunkenness, cheetah print, occasional lipstick), even as far as bass player Ian’s mother having been an actual Thunders groupie in New York City in the 70’s, but Love Bullet’s inspirations are rooted deeper than that, still.
“I always listened to people like the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Ramones, of course, but then it was the River City Rebels that really made me want to play in bands,” says guitarist Justin, stressing the importance of the local music scenes he grew up around. Adding on, Ian references bands like The Rotaways and The Allergies, while their ultra-silent drummer, Chalky, bounces in with the single phrase “Dead Boys!”
Unlike many of shamelessly self-promoting local bands in New York City, the striking thing about Love Bullet is that their concept of a “band” doesn’t seem to reach much farther than a group of five guys playing their own music and having fun. When I ask them if they rebuke the music business, promotion, and money to stick to some old-fashioned punk ideal, though, Styles explains, “It’s not a conscious decision, that’s just the way the cookie has been crumbled. We know how to play and that’s about it.”
His answer, though, in itself, confirms my exact suspicions. Most of the members of Love Bullet firmly believe that music is the only thing they’re capable of. Their “I Must”, if you will.
“I agree with that,” says Ian, “and we try to care about it beyond just playing the music, but it never really happens. We’re kind of stupid about it, and it’s almost a little embarrassing. The truth can be very real sometimes”.
“Being organized as a band in New York City is hard for us sometimes,” says Justin. “It takes two hours to get all of us to the same place to get anything done, between trains and equipment and everything.” (“I’ve never even had a full drum set at any of these shows,” Chalky adds.)
“New York has made us kind of want to kill each other sometimes because of all of that. It will be like, ‘This guy is over here passed out, that guy met a girl last night, and we just don’t even know where that other guy is’, and then at least two of us will be in a fist fight out in the street,” Justin says, laying down the laws of Love Bullet with his head resting on stack of books about CBGB’s.
Love Bullet is full of politics, but ironically, they’re the most anti-political band I’ve ever spoken to. Most of the members have never voted in a presidential election, and according to Ian, they “generally don’t care about anything that isn’t right in front of their faces”.
Instead, the “politics” come from what seems like an insatiable urge to talk shit and fight… all the time. As a band that lives together, Love Bullet is Love Bullet twenty-four hours a day, not just when they’re writing and playing. Sometimes they are The Beatles during Let It Be, or Fleetwood Mac during Rumors, but on other days they’re in full on best friend mode. (During this discussion, a few of the guys started to get into a serious fight over pizza, and a few minutes later they were “toasting” slices.) The drama and band politics, though, make Love Bullet all the more interesting because the fights make them closer.
Their music is most definitely something to pay attention to, but the antics of Love Bullet also live up to some crazy standard of the rock n’ roll lifestyle. Travelling from Denver to New York City together, Love Bullet has racked up more than a handful of show stories that would put even the most indulgent rock stars to shame.
“One time we played a show that had unlimited drinks,” Chalky says, “So obviously, Styles had too much. We started playing and he just fell into one of the amps. Then the bass drum completely flips around, the kick pedal is in the air, and an amp falls on Justin’s head because shit is just rolling into him. And Styles was just on the ground rolling around like a buffoon.”
“Was that the one where we asked the crowd if we should take Styles to the hospital or keep playing? Or was that the one where he left the venue during the set?,” Ian asks.
“He always leaves, man…” Justin adds.
More show stories include beer spitting, beating up fans, run-ins with paint thinner, and having to fight off couch cushions being thrown by a disgruntled crowd.
As for where Love Bullet is going currently, it’s hard to say, but they’re the only band in New York City at the moment doing something this organic, and it’s mostly because they have to. Love Bullet doesn’t just listen to classic punk, rock n’ roll, and glam rock, they live it. While other bands pimp themselves out on Twitter and scramble to make low-budget EPs and T-Shirts, Love Bullet is hanging out in dive bars on the Lower East Side, waiting around to play their next show. “We just want to play for fun, maybe drink for free, and have money to go to buffets,” says Ian.
Everyone agrees, and that’s that.
Photos courtesy of Ash Fox for Club Calco